<body> -------------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Friday, November 10, 2006

Infinity Bio-Energy in Brazil targets 1 billion liters of ethanol for exports

Bermuda-based investment company Infinity Bio-Energy plans to produce 1 billion liters of ethanol by 2009 in Brazil in order to supply international markets, company CEO Sergio Thomson-Flores says.

As a result, the company is investing US$700 million in the country: "We will do this [reach the target] through acquisitions and investing in greenfield projects," he said. The company has invested some US$260 million since it started in March 2006, buying control of three sugar and ethanol producing mills in Brazil with a combined capacity of 300 million liters per year.

The balance of the US$700 million in the coming years will go to the acquisition of two more mills and to the launch of the construction of three mills this year and another five in 2007.

An international market
Infinity expects global demand for the fuel to grow as countries seek alternative fuel mixtures to reduce pollution and secure their energy supplies. This could double the demand for ethanol in the world, the company's CEO said:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"There are a dozen and a half countries that have authorized an ethanol admixture into gasoline," he said. "If there are firm supply commitments, they can turn this into a mandatory mixture that will require another 40 billion liters per year."

Brazil produces roughly 17 billion liters of ethanol per year, roughly 43% of world output.

Brazilian leadership
Brazil, which has a 23% mandatory admixture into gasoline, is well positioned to maintain its leadership, he said.

"Brazilian ethanol production is very competitive," he said. "Brazil produces ethanol sugarcane at about half the cost of US ethanol production from maize, excluding subsidies granted by the US government."

Although Infinity is headquartered in Bermuda, it considers itself to be a Brazilian company since its workers and know-how are all Brazilian. The company raised much of its capital for investments in an IPO on the London Stock Exchange, with US, European and Brazilian investors.

Infinity thinks it is ready to take advantage of the growing market. To that end it has started talks for long-term ethanol supply contracts with exporters and industry leaders, including Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras. Petrobras is seeking long-term contracts to resell ethanol abroad.

Article continues

The bioeconomy at work: German engineers develop printed circuit boards from biomass

Yesterday we had a look at how Finnish researchers succeeded in developing a printable, biodegradable biofuel cell that can power micro-tags. Today, news comes in from an interesting project in Germany, where engineers succeeded in creating printed circuit boards made entirely from biomass. The component was tested in a TV remote control. We focus on this kind of developments because they usher in an era of beneficial waste, cradle-to-cradle design, and post-petroleum high-tech innovation.

Electronic components used in computers, televisions, micro-wave ovens, iPods, cell phones and a whole series of other household, office and industrial products, have become a pollution and waste problem of vast proportions. Vast piles of "e-waste" are dumped in the third world where an army of poor and poisoned (child-)laborers "recycles" them. 70% of Europe and America's used computers ends up in China. There, children and poor slum-dwellers work unprotected with dangerous chemicals to recycle the components, leading to a health problem most of us don't want to know about. (See this overview of the current situation and of initiatives aimed at changing it.)

Even though projects aimed at "recycling" this electronic waste in a cleaner way are no doubt well intentioned, the future lies elsewhere. What if all these components were to be made entirely from biodegradable materials? What if throwing away e-waste would be a good thing to do because the components act as fertilizer for food, biomass and energy crops?

German scientists are working along the lines of this philosophy. They are making 100% biodegradable, printable electronic components out of lignin, plant fibres and natural resins. Soon their prototypes will be brought to mass production. The circuit boards consist of a matrix of straw lignin with short hemp fibres and cotton weave for reinforcement. The adhesive is a natural resin and expandable graphite acts as a flame-retardant. The need for halogenized flame protection media has been eliminated:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The assembly of the components is carried out using lead-free solder allowing electronic modules to be manufactured that are in conformity with the RoHS ("Restriction of Hazardous Substances") EU guidelines.

The material consists 100 per cent of renewable raw materials. The thermoplastic deformable substance used is called "Arborform", a natural resin. In order to test their suitability for practice, the double-sided contact circuit boards in the project were successfully built into a remote control for a television set. However, it was shown that the production process required further optimizing. Especially the temperature-pressure course during production needs reworking for larger installations. The researchers assume that they will overcome the present problems of the moisture absorbance and the insufficient copper adhesion.

The project is a collaboration effort of the German Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (Renewable Energy & Materials Agency), Tecnaro, Andus Electronic, Ingenieurbüro KEW Konzeptentwicklung, the Fraunhofer Institut's department for Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration (Reliability and Micro-integration) and Loewe.

Article continues

Zimbabwe's biofuels program: from enthusiasm to realism

Quicnote bioenergy policies
Last year the University of Zimbabwe made a feasibility study which showed that locally produced biodiesel and ethanol offer a sustainable solution to the country's energy crisis. Immediately afterwards, Harare Polytechnic launched a first biodiesel project, using jatropha and involving poor farmers. The buying price of jatropha seeds was benchmarked against international diesel prices to promote farmers to grow the crop.

The initiative caused a lot of excitement in the country, but almost a year after the launch progress towards the commercial production of the actual fuel has been checked by operational challenges, Zimbabwe's official Newsnet said. The case shows that producing biofuels is more complex than just planting crops and turning them into a liquid fuel.

Several implementation steps have gone wrong, and many factors are to blame:
  • lack of extension and educational services: participating farmers experience a lack of follow-up programs for the growing of jatropha trees; extension workers said they lack the knowledge and resources to spread information about growing energy crops which is a critical stage for the success of the whole project
  • lack of capacity and coordination between key institutions, resulting in a lack of efficient response to implementing the policies
  • lack of committment of secondary institutions because of uncertainty on the level of higher institutions; e.g. the infrastructural development bank has hesitated to put up the necessary infrastructures for processing the seeds into biodiesel
In short, developing countries with weak institutions and no experience in the sector must allow a dose of realism to set in before actual biofuel programs and policies are launched. The production of green fuels is a complex process involving many different stakeholders and a chain of processes which must all run smoothly. Such countries must carefully analyse whether a proper investment climate, financial mechanisms, institutional capacities, agricultural extension services and basic infrastructures are in place; they must ensure that policies offer a guarantee to limit losses for stakeholders in case one element in the chain underperforms, and so on. For the time being, Zimbabwe's failure seems to be an exception, but other countries can learn a lesson from its experience.

Senegal for example, first analysed and recognised its own weaknesses and consequently called in the help of foreign expertise (Brazilian agronomists and Indian entrepreneurs). Maybe South-South or North-South cooperation is indeed an important part of the strategies developing countries can use in getting a biofuels industry off the ground [entry ends here].
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Article continues

New technologies to double sugar cane ethanol output to 13,000 liters per hectare

Quicknote bioenergy technology
Earlier we referred to a longitudinal study showing how Brazilian ethanol producers had learned to make the entire chain from planting sugar cane to processing it into fuel more efficient. Over the course of 25 years, production costs decreased likewise, some 75% (earlier post). According to Brazilian commodity brokerage Sociedade Corretora De Alcool Trading SA, this process of rising productivity is far from over. At the FO Licht World Ethanol Conference held recently in Amsterdam, director Jacyr Costa Filho, who has 20 years experience in the sector, announced that by 2030, the ethanol output of a hectare of sugar cane will rise to a staggering average of 13,000 liters, more than twice the current output.

Just like the steady rise of the past quarter of a century, the increased productivity of the coming decades will be the result of a series of new technologies and processes, ranging from the development of high-yield plant varieties to the creation of new planting, harvesting and processing techniques.

Being a tropical grass species, sugar cane yields far more energy per hectare than ethanol crops grown in the more temperate climates of the North (US/EU). Corn, for example, yields around 3000 liters, whereas sugar beet may deliver 1000 liters more; one hectare of wheat can be turned into a meagre 1,200 liters of biofuel. These low yields make that the crops in question have a very low positive energy balance, somewhere between 1 and 1.5 for corn and between 1.5 and 2.5 for beet. In other words, for each unit of energy you put into planting, harvesting and processing these feedstocks into ethanol, you only get 1.5 to 2.5 units back in the form of a useable biofuel. The energy balance of sugarcane-based ethanol in Brazil is many times stronger, around 8 to 1. Some highly efficient producers even reach a balance of 11 to 1 (when bagasse, a processing residue, is used to power the ethanol facilities, and when the excess electricity thus produced, is fed to the grid) (earlier post)

Now if Jacyr Costa Filho's projections are correct, the energy balance of sugar cane ethanol will become exceptionally strong, surpassing that of petroleum produced in the many fields whose output has reached a peak. Then it truly becomes a biofuel that can compete with its fossil rival, even if oil prices were to drop significantly (which is very unlikely over the longer term). If looked at from the perspective of land availability, it would mean that much less land will be needed to deliver an equal amount of energy if compared with the current situation [entry ends here].
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Article continues